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Hidden Mold: What to Do If I Can Smell Mold but Can’t Find It

Mold, when it flourishes indoors, exudes an odor. Experts liken the smell of mold to a forest lush with earthy vegetation, soil and decaying wood. Others connect the scent of dirt lying beneath decayed leaves with the smell of mold. More homely descriptions suggest mold smells like wet, dirty socks. Flipping through an old, musty book also evokes, in some, the smell of mold.

The odors of mold are unpleasant, no matter what familiar components they are compared to. When a homeowner walks into a room and is overcome by strong whiffs of mold, a mold problem is likely to exist. The occupants of the home may also start to experience allergy symptoms, like runny nose, watery eyes and itchy skin, when inside the home. When they leave the residence and their symptoms disappear, it could signal that mold spores are thriving inside the home.

Mold latches onto surfaces that are dark, damp and offer a rich feeding ground. Wood, fibers and drywall are materials that can provide nutrients to mold spores when moisture is available. Since mold is likely to flourish in areas that offer substantial nourishment, homeowners are likely to smell mold in the attic, bathrooms, crawl spaces and basements.

Mold eats away at a building’s structure, leaving rotted materials in its wake. The cost of the repair of structural damage due to mold takes a huge chunk out of a homeowner’s budget. The health of the occupants in the home is also at stake when mold is present. Allergy symptoms are triggered by mold spores, and those with respiratory illnesses become increasingly vulnerable to ill health. Mold odor is not the cause of sickness; rather, the mold spores that spew the odors are hazardous to human health.

Test for Mold

When a homeowner smells mold but visual clues are invisible to the naked eye, then mold testing can be performed by a professional to locate the colonies. A mold testing kit can also be inexpensively purchased from the local hardware store and utilized by the homeowner. While a homeowner will likely be unable to pinpoint mold based on smell alone, the place where the odors are strongest may lead to the location of the mold growth. Mold can spread rapidly, so curtailing the mold growth should be a homeowner’s priority.

Mold in the Attic

Since mold growth is most common in dark and damp places, the attic is often a prime spot for mold spores to flourish. Homeowners can thwart mold growth in the attic by increasing ventilation, repairing window leaks and completing roof repairs promptly. Hire a roofing professional to inspect the roof for leaks at least once a year.

Colonies Under Carpeting

Carpeting is a rich nutrient source for mold colonies to thrive, especially when the carpeting gets wet. Windows should be kept closed during rainstorms to prevent a soggy carpet and the inevitable mold growth that will eventually take hold underneath. Vacuuming weekly and immediately cleaning up liquid spills will also halt the growth of mold spores.

Spores in the Washer

A homeowner can sometimes smell mold coming from the laundry room. Upon closer inspection, mold is likely to have thrived in the washing machine’s gasket. Prevent mold from overcoming the washing machine by leaving the machine door open and allowing it to air dry. Minor accumulations of mold can be wiped away with a bleach solution.

Mold Inside Walls

Plumbing pipes are often located in wall cavities. When a water pipe bursts, mold can feed on the moisture. Damage to the walls due to mold feeding on them will ensue before it is visually detected. Signs of mold growth in wall cavities include discoloration and swelling. Prevent the spread of mold by repairing any leaks immediately.

Spores Behind Wallpaper

Peeling wallpaper may indicate the presence of mold. The cellulose found in wallpaper and drywall is a rich nutrient source for mold. If mold is present behind the wallpaper, consult a professional to dislodge the spores. A trained professional will treat the areas and contain the mold growth so the spores do not contaminate other areas of the home. Prior to installing new wallpaper, prevent mold by applying mold-resistant primer. Also, use professional grade adhesives. Avoid wallpapering kitchen and bathroom walls where exposure to moisture is constant.

Infestations Within AC Units

Air conditioners are also a frequent feeding ground for mold spores. The unit pulls in airborne dirt and pollen, materials that mold can feed upon. AC units that sit idle for lengthy periods of time are typically infested by mold colonies. Experts recommend running the air conditioner daily to circumvent mold related issues. If the central air conditioning system is infiltrated with mold spores, consult a professional to tackle the problem.

While a property owner may eliminate the mold inside the home, the mold smell may not completely disappear. The microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOC) that mold spores release cause the smell of mold. Not all mold produces the MVOC, and some spores may simply stop creating the MVOC at any given point. The longer MVOCs permeate the materials in a given space, the more likely the smell of mold may linger even after the spores are killed off.

When mold infests your home, ServiceMaster Kwik Restore is available to remove the mold growth and the associated odors professionally and efficiently. Our mold remediation services start with a thorough assessment of the extent of the mold growth within the property. Our specialists work closely with an environmental testing agency and report the test findings to the homeowner’s insurance. Once a mold remediation plan is developed, our skilled technicians then work to contain the mold so the spores are prevented from infesting other areas of the home. The mold removal and cleanup begins with the utilization of advanced microbial cleaning methods. Mold is fully removed from the home, and items damaged by mold are either repaired or replaced.

Halt the spread of mold promptly with professional mold remediation services. ServiceMaster Kwik Restore dependably serves the residential and business communities of Lake, McHenry and Kane Counties in Illinois and Racine, Kenosha and Milwaukee Counties of Wisconsin.